Try out these recipes that are popular amongst the Zerma people group. You may download these recipes and try them out in your own home. The recipes are in PDF format:

Zerma Recipes

NEW recipes added
May 1, 2003

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Faabakoy with drum
John 14:6
John 3:16
Above is just a sample of
some of the songs.



Beginning in the 15th century, the Zerma-Songhai peoples made up an empire that controlled most of central and western Niger. Although they came to adopt Islam as their religion, spirit worship, magic, and sorcery remain incorporated in their beliefs and practices to this day. The French arrived in the early 20th century, subjugating the Zerma and their neighbors under colonial rule. In 1960, Niger gained independence. Though the Zerma are no longer part of a powerful empire, they remain a proud people, resistant to change.

There are almost three million Zerma across West Africa. Most of the Zerma people live in Niger, West Africa. The majority of these are Muslim, and have been for many centuries. Their culture and traditions are tied closely to the practice of Islam. Like Muslims everywhere, the Zerma hold to a set of beliefs which begin with the confession that “there is no God but God and Mohammed is His prophet.” They observe the Islamic rituals such as the month of fasting during Ramadan; they give a small portion of their income to charity; they perform at least five daily prayers; and if they have the means, they make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Every village has a mosque where the men gather to pray and the larger towns and cities have many, sometimes almost one per block. Although there appears to be a strict adherence to Islam on the surface, many Zerma also incorporate animistic practices into their daily life resulting in a type of “folk Islam.” These practices consist of things like wearing charms and consulting mediums. Often these charms consist of small pouches into which they will tuck Koranic verses. The extent to which the Zerma participate in these practices varies from village to village.

About half the Zerma population is under the age of 15 due to increasing birthrates and decreasing infant mortality rates. The Zerma language is called Zarma, and is closely related to the Songhai dialect. Only about 10% of the Zerma are literate. The children are educated in schools modeled after the French system but most communication between Zerma people, even those who are educated in French, is done in the Zarma language.

Less than 1% of the Zerma follow Christ. There are a few Christian churches, mostly in Niamey, the capital city.

How do they live?
The primary occupation of the Zerma is farming with millet, sorghum, beans, and peanuts making up the staple crops. Family members work individual farms. The head of the household distributes fields to each of the family members for cultivation. Men are responsible for clearing, sowing, weeding, and harvesting the millet. Women, in addition to their domestic tasks, help in the sowing and harvesting of millet and are also responsible for small plots of peanuts, okra, and peas. They will also plant and tend dry-season gardens in areas with access to water.

In addition to farming, the Zarma raise chickens, sheep, goats and some cattle, although the larger animals are usually only slaughtered and eaten during religious ceremonies and festivals. The farming season is about five months long, from June to October each year (the “rainy season”). During the “cool season” many villages, especially those located next to a good water source, will raise gardens. Many of the men will leave their villages after harvest and look for work in such places as the port cities of the coastal countries of West Africa, returning in time for spring planting. The farming and gardening is all done by hand, using long-handled implements for the planting and cultivating of crops like sorghum and millet. It is labor intensive, and it’s not unusual to see one’s best efforts produce little or nothing because of drought or pests, which destroy crops. Zerma people hold many of the government jobs, especially in Niamey, although the Hausa make up the majority of the population of Niger. You will also find Zerma fisherman, teachers, businessmen, etc. Farming, however remains the most respected form of work.

It is not considered unusual for a Zerma man to take more than one wife, although this practice is more common among the older and wealthier men. For some, it is a sign of social status. In general, the women are responsible for cooking, cleaning, hauling water, caring for the children, and numerous other chores that fill a day. They have little leisure time. There are women in both the military and government.

Housing is generally mud brick – either round with mud walls or rectangular with walls made of sun-dried mud bricks. Most houses have straw thatched roofs. If a man has more than one wife, each wife will have a separate house for her and her children.

The primary celebrations are Muslim: tabaski (feast of the sheep), Ramadan and Mawlid (Mohammed's birthday). Pressure on everyone, including Christians from Muslim families, to participate in tabaski and Ramadan is intense. The end of Ramadan is a big feast and children go around asking adults for money.

For weddings, there is usually an all-day celebration at the bride's home, after which the groom's friends bring her to his home where the couple and their friends celebrate for three days. Seven days after a child is born, everyone is invited to a naming ceremony where prayers are said for the child by a Muslim priest, after which there is an all-day feast.

The primary recreation is conversation. Sports, especially soccer and traditional wrestling, are very popular. Children play games such as langa-langa, a team sport played with one leg held behind the back. Dili, a board game played in the sand, is popular among older people. Western games such as cards are also popular. Gambling is very common, though condemned by conservative Muslims.

What is the status of evangelization?
Although many have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, few have accepted Him as Savior. Less than 1% of the Zerma call themselves Christian. The Niger government allows freedom of religion, so missionaries are free to preach and share the Word of God openly. Opposition tends to come primarily from Muslim leaders. At the present time there are several mission organizations working among the Zerma people in the capital city of Niamey, in the town of Ouallam, and in 30 to 40 villages.

International Mission Board personnel have a vision to see an indigenous church planting movement taking place among the Zerma people throughout the world. Their mission is to work in cooperation with fellow Christians to see that the Zerma people have heard, understood, and had a chance to respond to the Gospel.

How Are The Zerma Being Reached?
Prayer is and will continue to be a key in reaching the Zerma people. A monthly prayer letter is currently sent to about 500 people in the U.S. who in turn copy it and give it to their churches and other interested people. Our goal is to continue to expand this network around the world. We truly believe that God moves and works in response to prayer and that prayer, more than anything else will bring the Zerma people to a saving faith in Christ.

We have used the storying method in much of our evangelism. Storying, also known as Chronological Bible Storying, is a method of sharing Biblical truths by teaching the stories of the Bible in the order that they happened. As the stories are told, the listeners hear and come to understand the nature and character of God, and His plan for mankind, which began before the creation of the world and will be fulfilled at the final judgment.

Although the method can be adopted to a wide variety of contexts, most of the storying takes place during weekly visits to a home or village. After greetings are exchanged and visitation is over, the storying "session" begins. First, the material presented the previous week is reviewed. Then the current story, or narrative passage, from the Bible is told (for example: the story of the flood). After the end of the story comes a time of review and discussion during which the teachers poses questions designed to reinforce the teaching found in the passage. As the stories progress, each one building on the foundation of the previous stories, the listeners gain a solid understanding of Scripture and the plan of salvation. As the first set of stories culminates with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is evident that He alone is the answer to our sinful and helpless condition before a Holy and Righteous God. Other sets of stories can be used to teach discipleship and church growth to believers.

For those who have difficulty reading or lack the desire to, the stories present a way to carry an "oral Bible." With frequent review, the stories can be memorized and then used to teach others, or for personal reflection during devotional times. All the truths we need to know about God are contained in these stories; storying is a way of communicating these truths in a way that is practical and reproducible.

The Bible is available in the Zarma language and we have made use of it in teaching Zarma literacy, as well as for preaching, teaching, discipleship, and personal growth. We hope someday to make it available on audiocassette as well. We have also made use of correspondence courses and Theological Education by Extension. We are developing more in-depth storying series for discipleship and leadership development.

The Jesus film has been translated into Zarma and we have shown it in many villages. Many of these villages have requested repeated viewings. There has not yet been any opposition from the Muslim leaders to the showing of this film. We are making use of audiocassettes as well since every village seems to have a least one cassette player. Some of the cassettes we loan out have an accompanying picture book, others are simply messages originally recorded for radio programs. These have proven to be quite popular and it’s not unusual to come across a youth who can repeat parts of the stories or messages verbatim. We’ve also discovered that they circulate widely.

In Ouallam, we have set up a community center with a small library and classrooms for instruction in sewing, English, nutrition, etc. We’re also using it as a base for a “mobile center” where we can take books and other items to villages for a day.

Our ministry plans also call for the purchase of radio and TV time to broadcast messages and media such as the Jesus film and other evangelistic films. We’ve had a number of volunteers come from the U.S. over the past few years. Through activities like medical work and prayer walking they have helped to open doors to ministry in homes and villages as well as assist us in our work. They also carry a vision and excitement for reaching the Zerma people back to their home churches.

Questions about the website: susie@zermateam.org